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Wade v. County of Sacramento

September 3, 2008

CHANCELLOR WADE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
COUNTY OF SACRAMENTO, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



FINDINGS & RECOMMENDATIONS

Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding pro se with claims under 28 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA). Plaintiff also seeks to invoke the court's supplemental jurisdiction over the tort claims in his complaint brought under state law. The events about which plaintiff complains took place while he was incarcerated at the Sacramento County Main Jail. Before the court is a motion for summary judgment brought on behalf of defendants County of Sacramento, former Sheriff Lou Blanas, Chief Deputy Sheriff Mark Iwasa, Sheriff's Lt. Gordon Smith, Sheriff's Lt. Scott Jones, George Hills Company and John Joiner. Specifically, the moving defendants seek summary judgment in their favor as to plaintiff's claims five, six, and seven and plaintiff's request for punitive damages.*fn1

SECOND AMENDED COMPLAINT

In his second amended complaint plaintiff alleges as follows. Plaintiff is a "practicing Muslim" and based on his religious beliefs, he is prohibited from eating pork or "pork by products." (Second Am. Compl., Attach. at 4, 8.)*fn2 From November 12, 2003 to April 11, 2005, plaintiff was incarcerated at the Sacramento County Main Jail.*fn3 (Id. at 5-7.) Plaintiff contends that he was not provided a "pork free dietary supplement" or Islamic religious services and that defendants Sacramento County and former Sheriff Blanas failed to implement policies to provide such to inmates held in the Sacramento County Jail. (Id. at 2, 7, 10.) Plaintiff names as defendants, the County of Sacramento, former Sheriff Lou Blanas, Chief Deputy Sheriff Mark Iwasa, Sheriff's Lt. Gordon Smith, Sheriff's Lt. Scott Jones, George Hills Company, John Joiner and Onesimus Ortiz, the Director of Chaplins at the Sacramento County Main Jail. (Id. at 2-3.) In addition to his § 1983 and RLUIPA claims, plaintiff alleges state law claims for negligence and breach of contract against the defendants. (Id. at 15-16.) Plaintiff seeks declaratory relief and unspecified compensatory and punitive damages. (Id. at 17.)

SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARDS UNDER RULE 56

Summary judgment is appropriate when it is demonstrated that there exists "no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c).

Under summary judgment practice, the moving party always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any," which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.

Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986) (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)). "[W]here the nonmoving party will bear the burden of proof at trial on a dispositive issue, a summary judgment motion may properly be made in reliance solely on the 'pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file.'" Id. Indeed, summary judgment should be entered, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial. See id. at 322. "[A] complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial." Id. In such a circumstance, summary judgment should be granted, "so long as whatever is before the district court demonstrates that the standard for entry of summary judgment, as set forth in Rule 56(c), is satisfied." Id. at 323.

If the moving party meets its initial responsibility, the burden then shifts to the opposing party to establish that a genuine issue as to any material fact actually does exist. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). In attempting to establish the existence of this factual dispute, the opposing party may not rely upon the allegations or denials of its pleadings but is required to tender evidence of specific facts in the form of affidavits, and/or admissible discovery material, in support of its contention that the dispute exists. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e); Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586 n.11. The opposing party must demonstrate that the fact in contention is material, i.e., a fact that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law, see Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); T.W. Elec. Serv., Inc. v. Pacific Elec. Contractors Ass'n, 809 F.2d 626, 630 (9th Cir. 1987), and that the dispute is genuine, i.e., the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party, see Wool v. Tandem Computers, Inc., 818 F.2d 1433, 1436 (9th Cir. 1987).

In the endeavor to establish the existence of a factual dispute, the opposing party need not establish a material issue of fact conclusively in its favor. It is sufficient that "the claimed factual dispute be shown to require a jury or judge to resolve the parties' differing versions of the truth at trial." T.W. Elec. Serv., 809 F.2d at 631. Thus, the "purpose of summary judgment is to 'pierce the pleadings and to assess the proof in order to see whether there is a genuine need for trial.'" Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587 (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e) advisory committee's note on 1963 amendments).

In resolving the summary judgment motion, the court examines the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). The evidence of the opposing party is to be believed. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. All reasonable inferences that may be drawn from the facts placed before the court must be drawn in favor of the opposing party. See Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587. Nevertheless, inferences are not drawn out of the air, and it is the opposing party's obligation to produce a factual predicate from which the inference may be drawn. See Richards v. Nielsen Freight Lines, 602 F. Supp. 1224, 1244-45 (E.D. Cal. 1985), aff'd, 810 F.2d 898, 902 (9th Cir. 1987). Finally, to demonstrate a genuine issue, the opposing party "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts . . . . Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party, there is no 'genuine issue for trial.'" Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587 (citation omitted).

On April 21, 2006, the court advised plaintiff of the requirements for opposing a motion pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See Rand v. Rowland, 154 F.3d 952, 957 (9th Cir. 1998) (en banc), cert. denied, 527 U.S. 1035 (1999), and Klingele v. Eikenberry, 849 F.2d 409 (9th Cir. 1988).

MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

I. Liability of Defendants Smith, Jones and Iwasa

In his fifth cause of action, titled "Supervisory Liability," plaintiff makes the following claim:

Defendants Lt. Smith, Sgt. S. Jones, and Captain Iwasa were put on notice that plaintiff's First Amendment rights were being violated, but the three failed to take any steps to remedy the matter. (Second Am. Compl. at 15.)

On February 5, 2004, plaintiff filed an inmate grievance complaining that he was not receiving a protein diet supplement when pork was being served to jail inmates. (Id. at 8-9.) On February 20, 2004, defendant Sheriff's Lt. Smith denied the grievance on the basis that the food served was "'broad enough to provide minimum nutritional needs without the consumption of religiously prohibited foods.'" (Id.) On March 5, 2004, defendant Sheriff's Lt. Jones denied the grievance at the next level of review. (Id.) Finally on March 11, 2004, defendant Chief Deputy Sheriff Iwasa denied plaintiff's grievance at the final level of review. (Id. at 9-10.)

A. Parties' Arguments

Counsel on behalf of defendants Smith, Jones and Iwasa argue that they are entitled to summary judgment in their favor because the acts they are alleged to have engaged in do not rise to the level of a constitutional violation. (Mot. for Summ. J. (MSJ) at 7.) In this regard, defendants first note that although plaintiff has characterized this claim against the named defendants as one based upon "Supervisorial Liability," there can be no respondeat superior liability under § 1983. (Id.) In addition, defendants argue that in any event plaintiff has no constitutional right to a jail grievance process or to any particular result in such grievance processes made available. (Id. at 8) (citing Mann v. Adams, 855 F.2d 639, 640 (9th Cir. 1988)). Finally, defendants Smith, Jones and Iwasa contend that it is undisputed that they did not participate in or direct the alleged violation of his rights about which plaintiff complains. Rather, their only involvement was in denying plaintiff's subsequent administrative grievances and that conduct does not rise to the level of actionable unconstitutional conduct. (Id.) (citing Shehee v. Lutrell, 199 F. 3d 295, 300 (6th Cir. 1999)).

In his opposition*fn4 to the pending motion filed on behalf of defendants Smith, Jones and Iwasa, plaintiff argues that prisoners do have a right of access to an administrative grievance process just as they have a right of access to the courts. (Opp'n at 4.) As to the supervisorial liability, plaintiff argues that defendants Smith, Jones and Iwasa are liable in this case because they were aware of, and failed to take any action to remedy, the violation of his constitutional right. (Id. at 5.) Plaintiff points to the defendants' responses to his grievances at each administrative level as evidence that he made these ...


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